Archive for the ‘Learning to Think and Work Symbolically’ category

Initiation Dream Series: Healing Splits, Flying, Swimming, & Singing Dawn Songs

September 28, 2019

The following dream is the first of three I want to interpret as a series at some point. The second in the series, the Three Crones Receive the Knife dream posted below, jumped into getting posted first because I was discussing the issue of how/why encapsulated trauma requires special handling, eg: piercing prior to working through. I will be posting the third and writing about how dreams can anticipate or foreshadow future developments.

This one opens with a seminar discussion in which I am concerned with how best to describe the conditions conducive to healing splits. I then have this experience which I would describe as reflective of Borderland Consciousness as formulated by Jerome Bernstein.

11-23-12 Friday AM (after Thanksgiving Gathering): I’m at a conference/seminar/training of some kind, coastal, sprawled out hotel/campus like, with descending levels, when moving from north to south, along the beach to the immediate west. A woman presenter, analyst type, is discussing a case, and makes a conclusion. It is about a young man with a split problem of some kind; I want to carry the dialogue further, as in my mind I picture asking the group to reflect on what each person senses is the essence of what will help heal this state/condition? What would each of us say about our way into this scenario? After weighing the possibility of engaging the presenter and suggesting such an exercise, I decided not to break into the real time possibility, rather I spontaneously pictured asking the group and then, in my turn, offering the vivid, clear guidance which came to me, something like: all that is required is that one who has the experience of both (parts of the split), to be the split, to be in the split, and to be whole, also; that one, that one, in simply being present, creates the container, the energetic field, for the other, the split one, to begin to orient to what is all around, inner/outer, and the wholeness begins to flow in, and where there was/were split(s), the tension goes out, dissipates, and there is first then the bridge between all facets, and then the filling in, and now oneness in diversity. Something like that.

Then, I was separate from the group, making my way from one end of the campus to the other, mostly inside, as if long multi-level hotel, and working down, south, with the ocean to my right, and I started to realize I could fly/lift off/hover my way in negotiating a narrow staircase, and that I like to do this; this took the form of a certain feeling I get when trying this in dreams; I concentrate, and sort of begin by intentionally, when I can feel it, slowly lifting my feet off the ground, and find, yes, I can hang, free from gravity, suspended for a moment, and establishing my feeling of connection to the air and my ability to float/fly, I can then begin to slowly, in this instance, steer/guide myself, through arm gesturing, guiding up, over, back and forth, around and down. I begin to do this with awareness of others possibly taking notice – it is very striking in its quietness and impossibility – but let that go, the issue of calling attention to myself with risk for distracting my process, as I was primarily concentrating intensely on the descent through the narrow staircase, a bit spirally, and was noticing how I thought I should be falling, but instead, I had to work at dropping; pulling with my arms, twisting my body a bit, slowly, quite slowly, with patience and total focus, winding my way down the channel; after this I decided to continue with the flying/hovering, and move up and over a wall, which was open at the top, to the next room/hall over; I was concentrating intensely; effort-full but relaxed, until finally, I was outside, standing on the street at the end of the complex, and I saw a man, one of the event organizers, watching me approach. He said “Chuck?” I said ”You are Patrick?” “Yes, yes.” He said the others had already moved through, and we will join them now for the closing; first we stop and sit at the banquet table (it seems), with evidence of the others having been there. Patrick is to my right, and another man sits down to my left, and introduces himself as “Endrick.” I say I am Chuck. I see the remains of the feast; in front of me are my servings, a number of tasty looking morsels, including a miniature hamburger like roll/ food bite, with a purple berry like “patty” filling. We look at each other; and I say to them “This is a little like the wizard of Oz, when we’re back, and I recognize the two of you from our long journey….” I woke up feeling very amazed and thinking “Endrick?”.

Waking reflections and dreaming the dream onward: When I woke up the owls were calling; I thought about the long sequence and realized it was an interesting and important dream to record right then. I got up, put on my robe and slippers and headed downstairs to I grab my journal; I decided to pass on turning on any lights and keep going down to the daylight basement level and use my newly installed Walter Pelton Bender memorial bathroom to move my bowels. I liked the idea I could turn on the wall heater and relax with the images. I turned on the overhead light on super low and listened to the owls; thought about the fun yesterday, and how much I enjoyed the family, my grand kids, and everyone; as my attention turned to the dream “flying” sequence, I was struck with how those sensations mimicked a salmon negotiating a narrow stream passage; the way I was as if floating, seemed practically identical with swimming, pulling my self through the waters in my descent on the stairway, a carefully negotiated hard work effort, almost in slow motion, that worked. It took the time and concentration it took. I thought about the salmon dream last week; and all the others, and thought about all of this as from view of recognizing a deep initiation into connecting with the salmon peoples, and this dream as contributing to my understanding of this ancient connection, awareness now accomplished at some breakthrough level, and wept with gratitude and wonderful feeling of more wholeness; then I walked outside and approached the trail in the direction of the owls.

They sounded right overhead, with one to my left, one ahead, and one a bit away to my right. I stood quietly, listening, and then moved slowly ahead; I crouched down, doing what I could to get into an owl-like position; the owl to my left flew ahead, above the tree tops, and landed on the very top of a tree within my direct line of site. I thought “this is their dawn song.” I quietly began to call back, joining into their call/response song. The other close in owl flew ahead, and landed in a nearby treetop, also now revealed to me from where I was crouching. I could see both moving as they called back and forth, we, with the third calling from a bit farther south, out of my view. I guess I made the fourth. This went on for a few minutes before the two closest, one and then the other, flew back towards what I imagined to be their nest at the back of our acreage in a very large Douglas Fir tree. By now it was about 7 AM. I recognized this was their dawn song, and I was blessed too be able to sing with them this morning. I slowly walked in the direction of the back acreage and found myself in a spontaneous prayer: thank you brothers…thank you sisters…from nature, to nature, in nature…thank you.

Curiously, along with several other associations to Endrick, when I tried Googling the name Endrick, I found references to Endrick Water, or the River Endrick, a river which flows into the eastern end of Loch Lomond, Scotland. I enjoyed the association I was connecting with an ancient salmon run. On this note, “Magic Words“, a Netsilik Eskimo Poem comes to mind.

Comment on Three Crones Dream Below

September 19, 2019

In a comment from below, Anarkali offered: “As an archetypal astrologer, I see you have noted the date and time of this dream. Be interesting to study the transit chart to see what was caught in your dream.”

I find this suggestion fascinating, as it seems the option of checking the stars on that now remote time and space would be a wonderful way to think about the collective influences, as reflected in/through the dreamer’s (me) consciousness. In the interest of this being a dialogue, I have reached out via email to Anarkali about a consultation.

The opening dream setting and imagery suggests the archetypal layer of consciousness: three crones in a space that is both ancient and contemporary in some parts of the world, the curved knives indicating iron age or more recent. The consciousness reflected in “we understand we are dead, or have died, and its not a problem for us” is an other worldly, dream time consciousness. The ritual with intention aspect offered during this current time of such global turmoil, with sacrifices being suffered in so many unconscious ways, pull for some witnessing consciousness. What are we to make of the onslaught of violence against others and all of nature? The initiated choose to suffer these symbolic deaths with consciousness and meaning. What might the stars tell us? I am open.

Recent Comment and (Un)Ease of Dialogue

September 16, 2019

I received an interesting comment/reflection from ES recently in response to my Complexes page, and while I generated my own reflection on his issue, it took me a while to find the origin post/page, in order to see our exchange. What comes to mind is how I would like to have a more accessible “general” comments flow, perhaps visible on the top page above the latest post. I will be working on how to accomplish this with the WordPress Happiness Engineers. Note my pages, found to the right, are fixed. Below them are my posts from most recent on back, and below them are my source quotes, close to alphabetized by author or topic.

Thank you for your patience!

Making a Case for Trauma Complexes: Mending the Tear that Always shows…

June 12, 2019

I just decided to open this with a Neal Young lyric from Round and Round.

“Round and round and round we spin,
To weave a wall to hem us in,
It won’t be long, it won’t be long
How slow and slow and slow it goes,
To mend the tear that always shows.
It won’t be long, it won’t be long.”

What is with mending the tear that always shows? I am thinking this tear that always shows captures symbolically the universal experience of the time we encountered something beyond our emotional breaking point. Then, something has to give; symbolically, a tear accommodates this unbearable strain. Stein and Stein, in their discussion of Psychotherapy, Initiation and the Midlife Transition, suggest that these days, in the absence of formal rights of passage rituals for most westerners, the therapy setting can provide the container for transformative ritual processes. They reference the art and science of maieutics – midwifery – as an image for containing and supporting psyche in what is essentially a birthing process: the ego suffers a symbolic death in the process of getting more deeply connected to the guiding Self. The greater consciousness (Self) can not come through the lessor (ego) without a death.

I have suggested that in the absence of good enough ritual elders, traumas can be lived through, but remain essentially incomplete intitiatory experiences. At some point, in the midlife or later, we need to open up this encapsulated, episodic memory centered trauma complex in order to re-integrate the split off material and thereby gain conscious wisdom in the ways of the world.

Had an elder been present at the time of the original insult/injury, something like an episiotomy might have been indicated and offered, to mange the inevitability of the tear, in the service of enabling the birth of the greater awareness, while minimizing the scar tissue.

Here, below, I am trying on the idea that our universal challenge is each of us has suffered a tear somewhere along the way. For me, this tear points to the reality one has suffered through, survived, a core wound; this is a wound of disconnect. We then put in place all manner of workarounds.  Might we just accept and support, together, recognizing any and all lost and/or rejected parts of ourselves? (see not-me (Bromberg) For me the Bromberg frame recognizes all kinds of highly individualized modules of being,waiting to be invited back in; what I am talking about here is the idea that there is indeed a primary, ground zero tear that is the tear that always shows.

I believe Robert Johnson has describe this as the Fisher King wound; the wound which never heals, experienced/received at the time we first registered an emotional overwhelm which our consciousness at the time could not contain.

Walking it through:

You know, we’ve all had our troubles.

Something comes along, at some point, that you just can’t hold; consciousness is ruptured, overwhelmed; one becomes two.

Blessed psyche – blessed as in life saving – comes in and facilitates, manages, finesses this tear; we get split, disconnected, separated within our self. Symbolically, this psychological dismemberment is recorded as a death.

New defenses arise, support workarounds, adaptations. We get through, or not.

These wound-generated defenses form the basis of the partial cure. Partial in that it employs dissociation to cover up the reality of the now-buried-to-consciousness disconnect. Amnesia assists, amnesia for the amnesia enables. We go about our business.

For some, perhaps many or even most, this partial cure may be enough.

But, the fact is, until we can gain access, debride and bring healing into the primary wound, we will be characterologically challenged. Incapable of risking vulnerability, self-self and self-other communications will be burdened by an unseen constraint/constriction.

The partial cure at best functions as kind of governor on one’s ability to feel the feelings which inform emotional intimacy.

Healing this split requires we bridge this divide with consciousness.

Bridging the divide starts with bearing witness to the reality of the chasm.

Creating, embracing a mature consciousness which can priortize staying grounded enough, connected enough, safe enough, to hold the energies of the original split without splitting, is a big first step. This is the place of bearing witness. We recognize the importance of learning to open and hold steady, as we can, in the experience of an immersion into the images and affects which required the split at the time of the overwhelm. Rilke’s image of A Man Watching comes to mind here:

“I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.”

How can we hear, bear, love, in the face of such distress?

Our work is with the partial cure until such time as we can gain access to the hidden disconnect. I am thinking Jung and Donald Kalsched’s work with the divided self complex frame* is about this issue at a radical level. Perhaps it will be helpful to think about a hierarchical short list of events/episodes/scenes contributing to the composite divided self complex.

Accessing the split off trauma complex, suffering an affective immersion into the dissociated experience, heals the split. (See Sandner/Beebe on healing splits)

Understanding conceptually that increasing consciousness and well being puts one in the position to surface one’s inventory of split off episodes of trauma, one by one, sounds daunting. Really? Must I/we go there?

Gaining access to original, encapsulated scenes requires a shift in the defenses that have been deployed to maintain the encapsulation. In his discussions about the nature of Sacred Space, Robert Moore observed when sacred space is present, that which is a source of conflict for the individual or group will come in; sacred space pulls for the de-structuring of the ego, which in turn then allows for contact with that which is seeking to come into awareness. See Eliade.

With the piercing of the encapsulation, a direct, re-experiencing of the wounding becomes possible; the image and affect scene/picture of the whole-body-being-torn-in-two, the primary split, comes into view.

The experience of the relaxing of the typically decades long defense against re-membering the reality of the wound already suffered, is usually accompanied by a profound sense of relief, as one finally gets to consciously know what one has always known. This coming home to one’s self is the felt experience of re-establishing the connection with one’s lost self.

It is the completion of the incomplete initiatory experience.

*This link connects to a short essay I wrote about my divided self complex and includes references to Kalsched’s work in Trauma and the Soul, Kalsched, D. (2013) London: Routledge.

Thinking About Microfractures (Again!)

April 25, 2019

In am bringing to the top page an earlier post titled: Microfractures in Communication: So What’s the Big Deal? Check out the post and take a moment to go to the Wilkinson link for the description of the importance of the rupture, repair, and reconciliation cycle. This is as good as it gets in terms of recognizing the importance of getting triggered.

One of the most important concepts to get working in your own language is captured in this single powerful quote within a  quote:

“… microfractures in communication between patient and analyst are vital because they allow the transference to become ‘the engine of analysis, by contributing raw material from the patient’s internal world and history’.” See  Wilkinson on Microfractures

This observation applies to the transference arising in our personal relationships as well. We all need a way to recognize the raw material which will find a way to present its bill, as Alice Miller observed.

Emotionally charged reactions to what might normally be considered small breakdowns in our communication point directly to the raw material of unfinished emotional business.

In a blur moment, the hurt or offense taken by one or both parties at some level can be understood or seen as an out-picturing of an experiential state scene.

The quote suggests these unintended ruptures, in letting the raw material into the space we hold together, become the engine of the analysis. These are the grist for the mill. While we can always try to do our best, planning for the inevitable microfractures that will show up allows us embrace the blur with awareness and curiosity, not negative judgement. What can we learn about ourselves, each other? (see discussion on getting one’s buttons pushed)

This is another way to understand the positive aspect of “healing only occurs in the blur.” We need to support the necessity of going there with enough consciousness to gain our freedom from the unconsciousness driving the re-enactment of the wounding.

From the Author of “It’s Not Always Depression”

March 1, 2019

While attending the Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) Immersion training last month, Hilary Jacobs Hendel’s book It’s Not Always Depression was identified as a very important offering reflecting the fundamentals of how AEDP works to address transformative change. She apparently has been able to strike a nerve in the collective, helping lay people and professionals alike understand the importance of identifying core realities about family of origin issues, including neglect, trauma, etc.

I did attend a presentation years ago by a mental health managed care company orienting primary care physicians to the importance of helping patients recognize their depression or anxiety profiles as biological, setting up the primary intervention as biochemical. For me, the unintended(?) consequence of this was it discouraged physicians from believing in the importance of their role in standing in for the good enough ritual elder, who, in caring about your life and your troubles, helps you believe in your goodness, and your resources, in finding a way to better manage life’s joys and sorrows. I knew at the time this was message was just plain wrong and said so. It was a spirited debate, but, alas, many good people, providers and patients alike, continue to believe in the need to treat depression as a disease, not a reaction to human life situations.* (see comment below) I do appreciate the important role medications can play in the mobilization and recovery process, but we all are in need of support to recognize our life trajectory, and create a narrative which strives to hold the joys and sorrows which are both our ancestral inheritance and the source of enlivenment and meaning.

I just received an email from the AEDP list serve from Hilary and at first glance, find her blog to be chock full of helpful information. A recent posting demonstrating how she works with the change triangle is very clear and concise. See: https://www.hilaryjacobshendel.com/what-is-the-change-triangle-c18dd

Poking around, I see she has a series of four posts discussing “Getting to Know Your Three Brains”. See: https://www.hilaryjacobshendel.com/single-post/2018/04/09/Getting-To-Know-Your-3-Brains-Part-1-How-Brain-Knowledge-Helps. These are very focused daily process guides to correcting one’s one-sidedness, in the direction of hearing from our minds, emotions, and bodies. She identifies the Self as the core consciousness which can function as the Maestro in the orchestra of the three brains: mind, emotion, and body.

With response ease in mind, I wanted to post these resources and encourage you to check out her work. She seems to be an embodied translator of the AEDP process work, with very accessible applications for self-guiding this work.

Once again, it is curious to me about the way this model identifies the role of Self without any explicit cross referencing to Jung’s original work with Self, ie: ego-Self axis. I find this fascinating and exciting, in that it suggests to me an intersection of depth processes. In the mid 1990’s when I attended an update on self-psychology with my early psychoanalytic mentor Rowe Mortimer, I was delighted to hear him describe how the psychoanalytic schools think about internalized others, ie: mother, father, as “active, dynamic, willing entities. This language seemed a perfect, yes, I said PERFECT bridge to what I had been learning about Jung’s complex theory. It is just this bridge that is at the center of my explorations here: the interface between the experiential state‘s self-other-affect, and the nuclei of a trauma complex, reflecting the archetypal layer evoked by the emotional overwhelm. See: https://healingintheblur.com/2017/08/01/complexes-as-bridge-to-the-symbolic-world/

From my work, the archetypal layer and realm of the complexes contributes a depth which speaks to the possibilities of just how episodic memories of trauma get stored and are indeed waiting to be re-discovered by ego consciousness, in the service of healing original wounds. To be continued.

Brian Feldman on the Second Skin (and more!)

January 7, 2019

Excerpted from:

“The lost steps of infancy: Symbolization, analytic process and the growth of the self” by Brian Feldman, Ph.D. (2002). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 47:397-406

“I believe that there is a relational archetype that emerges at birth (and perhaps in utero). This relational archetype mediates object relations (both the internally and externally ones) from birth, and continues to have an influence throughout the life cycle. At birth the relational archetype forms the basis for early bonding and attachment experiences. Bowlby’s (1969) attachment research offers ample evidence that the infant is genetically wired to form emotional bonds with attachment figures from birth. In Jungian terms this could be seen as an archetypal configuration occurring at the infrared pole or instinctual pole of the archetype. At the ultra violet end of the archetypal spectrum exists imagery of the coniunctio: the relational couple. Jung explored the adult form of the coniunctio in the ‘Psychology of the transference’ (Jung 1946), and postulated that this archetypal configuration is at the core of the analytic process. I would agree with Jung that the coniunctio or the relational couple is central to analytic work. My research is an attempt to understand the developmental sequence of the coniunctio, starting from intrauterine life and infancy. Infant observation research has made me aware of the pivotal significance of the coniunctio or relational couple from birth. The mother-infant coniunctio forms the foundation of the later coniunctios that develop through the life cycle, and as we know from our clinical work, difficulties in the early mother/infant couple can lead to later developmental problems. It is helpful clinically to have an understanding of the early mother/infant coniunctio, as this often emerges first in the individuation process.

Author Information

In regard to the early mother/infant couple I would like to make the following points that also are derived from my ongoing research of observing babies:

1. The infant’s sense of agency, his capacity to create his universe in relationship with and in interaction with the significant figures in his environment is fundamental to understanding his development. This principle can also be related to analytic work and our need to support our analysand’s emerging agency in the analytic arena.

2. The infant’s mental, emotional and spiritual development evolves in the context of the early coniunctio. Mental, emotional, and spiritual developments do not evolve in isolation from the significant relationships in the baby’s life. The contextual component of the infant’s experience is fundamental to understanding his development.

3. The early mother/infant relationship is quite fluid in nature. There is an ongoing oscillation between states of connection and states of separateness. There are a rhythm and a tempo to these fluctuating states. The baby and mother undulate with each other in their particular dance. These observations are in contrast to Fordham’s (1985) conceptualizations that the infant is separate from birth, and are also divergent from Winnicott’s (1960) concept that the mother and infant are in a state of fusion during the earliest period of life.

4. The infant’s capacity for symbolization evolves from birth onward. The skin, as the first experience of a container, is fundamental in this regard. Through the experience of the skin the infant develops a concept of inside and outside spaces, with a boundary which separates the two distinct areas. The skin is the envelope in which the body is contained, and it is the skin that provides the points of contact with the external world. The skin acts as a delineator of boundaries between what is experienced to be outside and what is experienced as inside the self. This primary skin function involves the evolution of a psychic container within which thought, affect and symbolic experience can be held and reflected upon. This experience of the skin later evolves into a concept of an internal and external world. Difficulties in the evolution of the psychic skin, the mental representation of the sensory skin, can be seen in the analysis of primitive mental states where boundary difficulties are prominent. In these cases a secondary skin function can develop. The secondary skin function is a defensive manoeuver that helps to contain unbearable affects through the use of bodily and mental processes such as can emerge in eating disorders, sexual addictions as well as in other psychosomatic conditions (Feldman forthcoming). (Chuck’s bolding)

5. In my observations of babies I have been struck by the infant’s need to give shape to his bodily self by pushing his body up against hard and soft surfaces, and by the mouthing of and grasping hold of animate and inanimate objects. The experience of the infant being securely held in the arms of the mother or other significant caregiver, and the exploration of the body of the other, especially the touching of the skin of the breast during breast feeding as well as the touching of the mother’s face by the infant are fundamental in the development of a coherent body image.

6. The infant has a capacity for reverie as well as the mother. The infant’s reverie can be seen as the infant plays with the nipple and breast – the first play object. I would hypothesize that during these states of reverie the infant’s capacity for introjection develops and gradually the breast/nipple is introjected and forms the basis of a primal good internal object. The nipple in the mouth is at the core of the development of the coniunctio. It is the first interpenetration of subject and object, and this forms the basis for later schemes of object relations. This thesis is different from that developed by Bion (1962) and later Fordham (1985) where the mother’s capacity for reverie is seen as primary. I would place equal emphasis on the infant’s capacity for reverie and I would postulate that the first symbolizations are sensory and unfold in relationship and in connection with the mother and are not a result of separation and absence from her.”